The Alliance & Leicester International report in conjunction with think tank, The Centre of Future Studies, showed that one third of Britons are considering moving abroad to work or live. The reasons given for considering moving overseas include:
- 39 per cent searching for a better quality of life
- 38 per cent hankering after new experiences
- 25 per cent relishing a new challenge
The research, which questioned 3,000 people, highlighted substantial differences of opinion between professions, with senior managers citing France and Spain as their favoured destinations and City and finance workers, manual staff and middle managers naming Spain as their favourite.
According to recent research from Bradford & Bingley Marketplace – Britons have the smallest homes in Europe. In fact homes are 12 per cent smaller that the average Spanish and 16 per cent smaller than the average French property.
And yet, one in 14 Britons now owns property overseas, and one in three expects to do so in the near future, according to a survey from MOP. French authorities say that more than 350,000 homes in France are British-owned.
The biggest worries people have about moving and living overseas are missing their family (59 per cent), the logistics of moving home (47 per cent), health care (45 per cent) and language (37 per cent).
First Things First
However exciting relocating to a new country is, do make sure you carry out as much research as you can prior to making any commitments. If relocation is due to job re-assignment, new employment contract or temporary relocation then you’ll find your move relatively straight-forward.
Your company should provide you with all the relocation and financial assistance you’ll need to make your transfer successful. Normally handled through Human Resources (or whatever they’re now called) they should give you the name and addresses of a couple of “tried & tested” relocation campanies who will handle everything for you both here and abroad.
However, it is a fact that 85 per cent of failed assignments are due to the accompanying partner not settling down well. All too often the person who stays at home bears the brunt of relocation often feeling alone and isolated.
And if children, especially those of school-age, are added to the equation, then the situation becomes more challenging. Do take their feelings into consideration too. For them, the wrench away from grandparents and other family members, school friends, clubs and other social activities makes it difficult for them to settle at first. So it is vital that you include your partner and children in the project. Even if you use a relocation company - don’t skimp on doing some research yourself.
It’s a good idea, if at all possible, for you and your family to familiarize yourselves with your adopted country as much as possible prior to the actual relocation date.
Something “known” is always less frightening than something unknown and foreign. or others the decision to relocate may be due to retirement, setting up of a much dreamed about business or the desire to start a new life. If you decide to handle everything yourself then the path is a little more time consuming and difficult - but not impossible. And if such is your case, then don’t panic - as you’ll find help and advice as you read on.
First of all, you’ll be amazed at how much free information you can find on the internet. Our website is here to help you with a list of expat links, estate agents, estate agents (rentals) and advice about buying property.
You’ve probably already started to make a list of things to do, thought about the type of home you’d like to have and perhaps written out an action plan.
But before going any further, let’s take a few moments to think things through. Are you sure you’re leaving your home country forever? How long is your job assignment - three years? or longer? Won’t you return to see friends and family or even, odd as it may sound, to spend a short holiday?
If you can’t answer those questions 100% then you may want to think about keeping one of your bank accounts open (especially if you need to transfer money due to child maintenance, alimony etc), and redirecting your mail to a family member who could post it on to you - or you could pick it up when you’re next visiting.
On the other hand, you may be so fed up with disintegrating transportation, poor educational and medical infrastructures, the high cost of housing, a life-work imbalance, and - the weather - that you’ve decided to up sticks and never return. In that case, let’s run through some of the things you should already have on your check list:
Estate Agents: now is the time to contact a reliable Estate Agent(s) and get your property on their portfolio.
Passports: check that they’re in order for you and your family to leave the country and live in France.
Visas: you’ll need a valid visa if you are a non-EU citizen.
Professional Papers: Take with you all relevant professional certificates, diplomas, etc., which may be required if you are setting up your own business.
Club memberships: Cancel.
Schools, colleges: to be notified of your children’s departure. Where you’re going to live in France may be dictated by proximity to schools, and some schools only take applications once a year, so make sure you haven't just missed the deadline.
Doctors & Dentists: notify of your departure and request copies of all your medical and dental records to take with you.
Royal Mail Re-Direction Service: arrange to have your mail re-directed for a small charge; pick up a form from your local Post Office or click here to follow the link to their page.
Bank Accounts: transfer or close your bank accounts - although you may want to wait until you’ve received all the final bills for electricity, water rates, gas and phone before closing your account.
You should also bring with you bank statements, tax declarations (for the last four years) and other financial documents. Receipts for your moving expenses, if they are not reimbursed by your employer, may be needed for tax purposes. Proof of your financial resources may be demanded so make sure you have the necessary papers.
Credit cards are widely accepted in France as they are over the whole péage system so you may want to keep those going. If you plan to drive down here rather than fly using “plastic” is a fast, practical and easy way of paying at toll bridges, restaurants and hotels.
Safe-deposit Box: empty as near as possible to the date of your move. Remove all your important documents (birth and marriage certificates, etc) to one place and keep them with you on your journey. Make photocopies of these too and keep in a separate folder and put in a drawer that is being moved with your effects.
Inland Revenue: get hold of a copy of the Inland Revenue’s leaflet IR20, Residents and non-residents: Liability to tax in the UK which advises on achieving non-residence status in the UK for tax purposes.
Council Tax: you may be entitled to a rebate if you’ve already pre-paid your tax.
Vote: if you want to continue your right to vote, contact your electoral office and ask for the relevant forms to be sent to you.
Your Car: you can bring a car into France and drive with foreign number plates for up to four months in any one year without the need to complete customs formalities. If you intend bringing your car over, then you must have car registration and insurance papers with you as you are obliged to carry your papers with you whenever you’re driving a vehicle in France. Failure to do so can lead to a fine.
This past year has seen a very noticeable “step up” on random spot checks by Gendarmes everywhere on the Côte d’Azur. Make sure your documents are up-to-date and in the car.
Removal Companies: obtain detailed quotes from at least three removal companies if you’re bringing your own furniture with you.
Cash: Have some Euros notes with you for use during your travel and upon your arrival.
Customs: There are restrictions on which plants can be imported into France, although a limited number of plants can be included in your personal effects. We have often bought plants (and flowers) in the UK and brought them over with us on our return flight to Nice. To date we’ve never been stopped or questioned by French customs.
However, you may want to visit the World Custom Organization’s website. Their French section (in English) gives very precise explanations on importing plants, vegetables, medicines and pets into France. (Note that your removal company should provide you about necessary customs facilities.)
As we mentioned earlier, research - and yet more research - is the best plan of action. To further help you with this task, we suggest you download the Expat Guide produced by the Alliance & Leicester International. This excellent 24-page guide takes you through the logistics of moving, lifestyle changes, bank accounts & taxation, healthcare issues, etc. that you should know about.
Another excellent guide can be found on Expatica’s website. Simply called “Move”, it takes you through all the different phases involved when relocating: papers & permits, moving checklist, fact sheets, how to find a home abroad, and much more.
While you’re dealing with all of the above, you’ll also need to be working on the French side of things. Don’t forget that if you’re bringing your family over with you, it’s a good idea to make a number of trips to France to familiarise everyone with their future “home” and adapt to the different culture.
While there are a number of excellent books on living & working in France, and you may like to browse our website's Bookshelf section for an idea of of publications. We also suggest you visit the website of the British Consulate-General in Marseille and look at their Information Services page for British Nationals.
Via e-mail, you should also request their “Residence in France” guide This detailed pack will navigate you through the local bureaucracy, social security and health care, employment in France, schooling, motoring, British associations, clubs, shops, churches, and useful websites.
And so to France . . .
The Big Day dawns and you’re off. This will be a difficult moment as you say goodbye to love ones and friends. It will also be a hectic day as you get ready to leave, double- checking last minute details, making sure passport and other travel documents are close to hand. Make sure you’ve got your camera out and ready to take last minute photos.
The first few weeks are going to be exciting and full of adventure. Later you’ll go through a period of dealing with bureaucracy and more down-to-earth situations. You might even feel some frustration with the administrative side of French life; and of course there is also the challenge of the language itself. And then, suddenly, everything falls into place and you’ll find yourself feeling part of the community and so delighted you’re here and wonder why you didn’t do this years ago.
Check list for France
As your UK check list gets shorter, so your French one will get longer. Here’s a list of things you should already have written down:
- Accommodation (Hotel/Rent/Purchase)
- Utilities: Electricity - Electricité de France (EDF), Gas - Gaz de France (GDF) and Water - Lyonnaise des Eaux; Telephone
- Vehicle registration
- Identity documents
- Bank Accounts
- Schools (if applicable)
It is evident that things will be far easier for you if you decide on rented accommodation rather than purchasing. Let’s take a look at what’s involved:
Normally, rented accommodation can be found through estate agents who have letting departments. As you can imagine, many only deal with holiday or seasonal lets. However, with the increasing influx of expatriates to the Côte d’Azur, there is now a growing band of estate agents who specialize in long-term lets and these are the ones you’ll find on our website; click here to take a look.
Of course, Relocation companies will also have a list of properties available to rent. Although you’ll pay a fee for their charges, they will accompany you on any visits you wish to make - and, more importantly, be there to help you in case of language difficulties. They generally deal with their own “tried and tested” estate agents whom they’ve found reliable and trust-worthy.
Another solution is to work with English speaking Property Search companies. Several already exist along the French Riviera and offer almost a “turn-key” package. Although the majority deal with buying and investment, some do handle rented accommodation; click here to find a list of property search companies.
Alternatively, you could browse through AngloINO’s accommodation offered section and deal directly with the home owners yourself. Otherwise, if you decide to become a member of Adapt in France you’ll receive their monthly newsletter that also carries some rental properties. Local newspaper, especially Nice Matin have classified adverts, and are well worth browsing.
Don’t forget (we’re sure you haven’t) that rented accommodation is still tricky to find on the Côte d’Azur - especially during the summer months. This is when home owners can rent out their properties as holiday lets and charge exorbitant rates. So, if you are thinking of renting something, start your research as early as you can and give yourself plenty of time to find the right place to live in.
Once you have found appropriate accommodation there are certain procedures you’ll need to follow - or at least be aware depending which route you’ve decided to take (alone or through a company).
Droit de Bail or Bail à Loyer: this is a the tenancy contract that stipulates terms and conditions of rental and rental rates, signed between the landlord or estate agent (on behalf of the lessor) and the lessee.
You will need to draw up and sign an inventory, with the lessor, to accompany the lease agreement. List fittings, fixtures and their condition and the condition of the property. Rent can be raised annually, either to an amount and on a review date agreed in the tenancy contract, or in the absence of this, it can be raised annually on the date of the signing of the contract.
You will be required to give proof of income. In France, the landlord/agent has the right to request proof of income. Although not often the case, you may have to provide details of a guarantor who will be named in the contract and who will stand surety in the event that you cannot pay the rent.
Caution or Dépôt de Garantie: this is a refundable deposit usually the value of two months’ rent, paid up front on the signing of the lease agreement. In addition, the first month’s rent must be paid at the same time.
At the end of tenancy and on the return of the keys, the landlord/agent has up to two months to reimburse the deposit, deducting any money needed for repairs (if any) to the property.
The tenant is required by law to have a comprehensive household insurance certificate (premium rates depend on the size of the property). Proof of insurance must be shown to the lessor at the signing of the lease and may be requested at lease renewal each year.
Taxe d'Habitation: French "occupiers tax" which covers services in the area. It is an annual payment that varies in amount depending on the size of plot and locality of the property. Lessees over 60 are exempt of this charge. Request for exemption with proof of age must be made at the Mairie (Town Hall).
Setting Up Utilities
As you’d expect, you’ll need to deal with these services in French. If you feel you’re not up to this - try and find someone who can speak on your behalf; perhaps the estate agent or a work colleague will help you However, you might be pleasantly surprised and find that the technician or engineers who pops round to your place speaks English.
Such was our case when we incurred power cuts for some bizarre reason. Frustrating at night it became even more so during the day when busy fingers were hard at work on the keyboard. After calling their 24hrs emergency hotline, EDF immediately despatched one of their technicians; lo and behold if he wasn’t perfectly bi-lingual.
Electricity (EDF): if the EDF bill is registered to the name of the outgoing tenant, you’ll need to open a new account, by calling the EDF number on the outgoing tenants bill. Give the name of the outgoing tenant, your name and the date at which you take on residence of the property. EDF will make an appointment to read the meter
Gaz de France (GDF): Handled by EDF, they will deal with this at the same time.
Telephone: France Télécom is the national supplier of traditional telephone lines. They also do cellular telephone and Internet packages; ADSL (Broadband). Their ISDN service is called Numeris and various options are available for home and professional use Domestic lines can be applied for at any branch of France Télécom's offices. Click here for a list of agencies (and map) in the area.
Television: For receiving French terrestrial TV you will need to ensure that your TV is capable of receiving the SECAM TV standard used here. There is a possibility if you bring your PAL standard TV from another European country that it may work as some sets are multistandard. A US NTSC standard TV will definitely not work. To be absolutely certain you will need to buy a set in France. There are normally six TV channels available: TF1, France 2, France 3, Canal+, La Cinque/ARTE and M6. In this region TMC (Television Monte Carlo) is also available. Click here to find more information about these channels in our French TV/Radio page.
If you hanker for programmes in your native language you will need to look to satellite TV which provides a wealth of channels in every possible language often for a very modest cost. For example the equipment necessary to receive all the BBC TV & radio stations can cost under €140. The whole subject of satellite TV will be covered in detail in an upcoming article on this site.
Medical Services: French medical services are second to none here; efficient, caring and professional. Nonetheless we do understand the difficulties of not speaking the language and thus Riviera Medical Services may be just the thing for you. Click here to find out more about this team of health professionals who facilitate access to medical care for foreigners whether they are permanent residents or tourists.
It is, without doubt, a major leap of faith to leave behind everything we know and love for the challenge of a new country, a new language and different culture. It is also a little frightening and yes, daunting even, to start from scratch finding doctors, dentists, schools, sort out administrative forms, legal advice, sport clubs, etc.
During the course of this article we had the good fortune to interview Madame Pierrette Gimenez, President of the Union Régionale Accueil des Villes Français, PACA region and Sylvie Kermin-Coiffier, founder of Adapt in France.
Both offer excellent guidance and resources to assist anyone coming to live on the Côte d’Azur. Please don’t hesitate to contact them if you’ve just arrived - or are thinking of relocating in a few months time. As we say, the more research you can do prior to leaving your home country - the better you’ll adjust to your new life here.
But if you’re still a little worried about moving and living in France - especially where the language is concerned - how about this?
The Sunday Times (June 13, 2004) published a wonderful article entitled: “Talking a second language keeps old age at bay”. Written by Jonathan Leake, their Science Editor, it appears that learning and using a second language helps to protect the brain from the effects of ageing, as a recent study has found.
Dr Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto (Canada) and author of the study, said people who had been bilingual for most of their lives were better able to concentrate on complex tasks and that for elderly people “bilingualism appears to offer widespread benefits across a range of complex cognitive tasks.”
The implication, say researchers, is that the more complex and well developed a brain is, the longer it will take for degenerative diseases to make an impact.
So, there you have it. And what better way than to celebrate your new found bi-lingualism but over a glass of red wine (good for the heart), a slice of French bread smothered in Aioli (garlic’s good for the blood) - and a bowl of wonderful sunshine from the Côte d’Azur (good for the soul).